071919-sports-BroncosTraining 07

Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton stretches during warm-ups Thursday in Englewood.

ENGLEWOOD — Well, that's one way to determine who’s the No. 1 wide receiver.

Erect an octagon. Cut me, Mick. Fight for it.

Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton brawled on Monday at Broncos training camp. They didn’t just shove each other. Didn’t just yell naughty words (they did that, too). Didn't do the MLB dance that's just for show.

They brawled. Sanders and Sutton — the Nos. 1 and 1A wideouts on the first depth chart — threw punches in a heated fight that rambled on until Sanders tossed a water bottle in Sutton's direction.

“Obviously it’s not good. Can’t happen. Shouldn’t happen. You have to be able to react to these things and handle them the right way,” coach Vic Fangio said after practice.

Sanders and Sutton declined to talk afterward.

The fight erupted on the offensive sideline at 10:23 a.m., roughly 1 hour into Sanders' first full practice of camp. Within a few minutes, general manager John Elway had made his way down to the field. Within a few more, Fangio huddled together the team for a quick message.

“I actually called them together twice. The first time was in reaction to the poor first-team period highlighted by that fight. The second time I was just telling them we were going into crowd noise. They didn’t know we were going into that. I wanted to tell them that,” Fangio said.

Credit Fangio, like usual, for not sweeping the fracas under the rug as if it were no big deal. 

It is a big deal. On an offense that lacks juice, Sanders and Sutton are two of the few playmakers who can break open a game. They don't need one breaking a hand. Several former NFL players attending practice commented that it was unusual for members of the same position group to go at each other.

At first, I thought the wide receivers were just being wide receivers and joking around. 

Sanders and Sutton were not joking around. 

“As you well know, being an ex-receiver, they’re a bunch of divas at times,” Fangio deadpanned in the direction of ex-Bronco Brandon Stokley. “Hopefully it’s just a rare episode. If it continues to happen then I think it’s a problem.”

The problem is that the Broncos don't have anyone on offense who can calm things down before it becomes a problem. Who's the second captain (after quarterback Joe Flacco)? There's no obvious choice, unlike the defense, which has four or five options no one's going to wonder about.

You could say it’s the most fight shown from the Broncos offense since Peyton Manning was here. You could also say the offense needs some real, emboldened leaders to emerge, and fast.

Sanders and Sutton are both from Texas, and this was some Texas-size beef. They both attended Southern Methodist — Sanders from 2007-09, Sutton from 2014-17. Maybe the animosity goes back to their SMU ties. More likely it stems from Sutton's suggestion that he — not Sanders — is the No. 1 wideout in Denver, a direct shot at Sanders.

Who knows from where it stems? Time will tell.

But like I suggested in June, Fangio needs to handpick his team captains. None of this players-vote stuff that had Demaryius Thomas wondering aloud if he was done wrong by Vance Joseph. By bringing fresh eyes to the locker room, Fangio and the experienced coaching staff he's put together should be able to identify the leaders from the wannabes. 

And the Broncos badly need the former. Their roster's better, but it's not good enough to succeed in spite of a divided locker room.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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